New Mexico dinosaur species has relatives in Canada

Ziapelta sanjuanensis, a newly discovered armoured dinosaur from New Mexico in the US has close ties to the dinosaurs of Alberta in Canada.

ANI| Last Updated: Sep 25, 2014, 11:48 AM IST

Toronto: Ziapelta sanjuanensis, a newly discovered armoured dinosaur from New Mexico in the US has close ties to the dinosaurs of Alberta in Canada.

The new species was discovered in 2011 in the Bisti/De-na-zin Wilderness area of New Mexico by a team from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science and the State Museum of Pennsylvania.

"Bob Sullivan, who discovered the specimen, showed us pictures, and we were really excited by both its familiarity and its distinctiveness," said Victoria Arbour from the University of Alberta in Canada who was part of the project.

"We were pretty sure right away we were dealing with a new species that was closely related to the ankylosaurs we found in Alberta," Arbour added.

From 76 to 66 million years ago, Alberta was home to at least five species of ankylosaurid dinosaurs, the group that includes club-tailed giants like Ankylosaurus.

But fewer ankylosaurids are known from the southern parts of North America.

Ziapelta stands out from other ankylosaurs because of unusually tall spikes on the cervical half ring, a structure like a yoke of bone sitting over the neck.

Ziapelta's skull also differentiates it from other known ankylosaurs.

"The horns on the back of the skull are thick and curve downwards, and the snout has a mixture of flat and bumpy scales - an unusual feature for an ankylosaurid," Arbour noted.

"There is also a distinctive large triangular scale on the snout, where many other ankylosaurids have a hexagonal scale," Arbour added.

Ziapelta hails from the Late Cretaceous, when a vast inland sea divided North America in two, and Alberta and New Mexico both boasted beachfront property.

The findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE.